Business process management (BPM) refers to a set of activities that organizations can perform to either optimize their business processes or adapt them to new organizational needs. An essential part of managing business processes is ensuring that documents get to those who are supposed to see them—and don't get to those who shouldn't. This month, IBM FileNet will release its latest product, IBM FileNet P8 4.0, to help ensure that only certain employees within an organization can view particular documents. This is the first joint release since IBM closed the acquisition on October 12.
"Business process management," explains Dave McCann, product marketing executive for IBM-ECM Group, "is a set of software that allows users to take documents and move them easily with rights and restrictions built in. It's not content management, but a layer of technology that works with content management."
McCann uses a bank as a practical example to demonstrate how BPM works: "A loan with my name on it can be routed to different parts of a particular bank—for example, the legal or customer service department," says McCann. With IBM FileNet P8 4.0, McCann says these documents can have "the appropriate restrictions and rights on it" so that this information doesn't end up in the wrong hands. "The user who checks the document in can classify what type of document it is," says McCann. "When you check a document in, you can establish policies about which people can access the document. The IT people within a company can then set up authentication controls."
McCann says that for companies operating internationally, business process management can affect compliance policies. "If you're a large American corporation with many employees, operating in many countries, you need to have corporate deletion and retention properties in each country," says McCann. "We're all swamped with information and dealing with the consumer in increasingly electronic ways and all content for the consumer, for example, needs to be dealt with in customer service."
Another feature of IBM FileNet P8 4.0 is that Java has been implemented into its content repository. This is important because Java is a prime enabler for web developers to deploy applications. According to Sun Microsystems, the developer of Java technology, there are 3.8 billion Java technology-enabled devices. "The large corporations are building out large portals using BEA, JBoss, and IBM WebSphere," says McCann. "For corporations that want to put content management on all employee desktops, that's important." He believes that Java is essential because "all companies in the world are moving towards portal software."
IBM FileNet P8 4.0 also synchronizes with employee directories. The P8 architecture, FileNet's content management platform prior to IBM's acquisition, integrates with directory servers of four of the largest content management providers in the world: Microsoft, Novell, Sun, and, of course, IBM. According to McCann, "content management systems need to be updated and synchronized with the LDAP servers," which are essentially employee directories, "in order for organizations to view a complete employee list and then determine which employees within a department may access a specific document."
The IBM FileNet P8 4.0 beta was completed in October 2006 and the official product announcement was made on Feb. 7. The product will be generally available on a variety of operating systems and web servers on March 15. It is available for 500 to 100,000 users, and pricing starts at $125,000. At least 17 products are licensed by P8 and users can pick and choose the type of application they want to run through P8, including image management, document management, or others, allowing this business process management tool to better fit into individual businesses' processes.